Critical incident declared by NHS trust in charge of Gloucestershire's hospitals

The hospital's A&E department has seen a huge rise in demand. Credit: PA images

A critical incident has been declared by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as the county's emergency services struggle to cope with extreme levels of demand.

The trust is in charge of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, which is taking longer than usual to tend to A&E patients. According to the trust's website, the current waiting time is more than three hours.

It is also in control of Cheltenham General Hospital which temporarily shut its A & E department in June. It claims the temporary change, due to the pandemic, is "making our services safer".

Cheltenham General's A&E department was temporarily closed to patients in June. Credit: PA images

The declaration comes despite additional staffing to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

According to Gloucestershire Live, a leaked memo to trust employees by Dr Rachael de Caux, Chief Operating Officer of the trust, said it recognised "staff are tired". She added it would take a "Herculean effort to reset not just us but the entire urgent and emergency care system".

In a statement, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

"Higher levels of demand than we had predicted, combined with new ways of working in response to COVID-19, have put considerable pressure on the urgent and emergency care system in Gloucestershire in recent days.

“Despite additional staffing, these combined factors mean it is taking longer for individual patients to be seen in our A&E department at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

"However, we are confident that the temporary changes we have made are making our services safer.

"Our focus is now on improving waiting times in the department whilst working closely with system partners to reduce demand for hospital care by ensuring that patients are seen outside hospital wherever appropriate so only those who need specialist hospital care attend A&E."

People are reminded to only visit an emergency department if their condition is serious or life-threatening.